Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, for thou knowest not what evil may be upon the earth…In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
THOMAS COKE (1747-1814): To cast one’s bread upon the surface of the waters, where it must be either devoured by the fish, or diluted to nothing, before the waves leave it upon the shore, would be a very odd way of providing for futurity; and I doubt whether one who would try the experiment could find his bread again after many days. But the case is quite otherwise with respect to seed thrown upon the surface of an inundation; when the waters subside, the corn which remains in the mud grows, and is found again many days after, at the time of harvest.
CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): In Egypt, for instance, where the Nile overflows the country periodically to a vast extent, it is common for men to cast their seed—their rice especially, upon the waters, whilst yet they are at a considerable depth. This might seem to be folly in the extreme: but experience proves, that, instead of losing their seed, they find it again after many days, rising into an abundant crop.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Waters, in Scripture, are put for multitudes, Revelation 17:15.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The exhortations of Ecclesiastes chapter 11 have also a spiritual import, with a particular application unto the minister of the Gospel. As faith is needed by the farmer in order to the discharge of his duties—so it is with the evangelical gardener. He must not be discouraged by the lack of response he meets with, and the absence of immediate fruitage to his labours. If he is faithful in casting the Bread of life upon the human “waters,” particularly “thy bread”—those portions you have personally received from God and which have proved a blessing to your own soul—the sure promise is “thou shall find it again after many days.”
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I remember, how during the depths of the Second World War, when everything was about as discouraging as it could be—bombing had scattered our congregation and so on—and I was facing great discouragement. I suddenly received a letter from the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. It was from a Dutch soldier who wrote saying that his conscience had been pricking him and, at last, had driven him to write to tell me what had happened to him eighteen months before. He explained how he had come to England with the Dutch Free Army and while stationed in London had attended our services for some time. While doing so he had been convinced of the fact that he had never been a Christian at all though he had thought he was. He had then passed through a dark period of conviction of sin and hopelessness, but, eventually, he had seen the Truth and had been rejoicing in it ever since.
ROBERT HAWKER (1753-1827): Can you need a more striking subject of instruction, respecting the spiritual seed of the gospel?―Like seed sown in the field, it lays hid for awhile. Its product is in future, not now. Preachers of the gospel of Christ, may find great beauty, as well as great encouragement, in these precepts blended with promises. How often, indeed, after many days and years do they find the fruit of their labours.
GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): Sixty-two years ago I preached a poor, dry, barren sermon with no comfort to myself and, as I imagined, with no comfort to others. But a long time afterwards I heard of nineteen distinct cases of blessing resulting from that sermon.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Frequently I have gone home groaning over a sermon which God has blessed to never-dying souls. And those very discourses which I have thought the worst of, God has blessed the most. I think we are not to be judges of how we do our work—the Master knows better than we do the success of our enterprises. Beside, dear friends, you do not expect to see fruit at once, do you? “Cast your bread upon the waters and you shall find it tomorrow,”—is that the text? If I read rightly it is, “You shall find it after many days.”—We must preach in faith believing that the Word cannot return unto our Master void.
WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): The husbandman throws his seed freely, because he sows in hope.
C. H. SPURGEON: To go on tilling a thankless soil, to continue to cast bread upon the waters and to find no return has caused many a true heart to faint with inward bleeding. Yet this is full often the test of our fidelity. It is a noble thing to continue preaching, like Noah, throughout a lifetime, amid ridicule, reproach and unbelief—but it is not every man who can do so…You must take care that you have this faith.
A. W. PINK: “For thou knowest not what evil may be upon the earth,” supplies a further incentive to fidelity. Things are indeed bad enough today—but the shrewdest is quite incapable of foreseeing how much worse they may become…Therefore it is the part of wisdom—to redeem the time and make the most of the privileges which are ours today. “Work while it is called day—for the night comes when no man can work,” John 9:4. Since we have no guarantee about the future, utilize to the full, the present.
JOHN BERRIDGE (1716-1793): I preach only at two times—in season and out of season. Such are my orders, and my Master has also said, “preach the gospel to every creature.”
MATTHEW HENRY: Let us continue our pious endeavours for the good of souls, for, though we have long laboured in vain, we may at length see the success of them. Let ministers, in the days of their seedness, sow both morning and evening; for who can tell which shall prosper?
A. W. PINK: Therefore be not slack or exclusive, but “give portions to seven, yes, to eight,” for if you prayerfully seek opportunities and carefully observe the openings which Providence makes—you will be brought into touch with hungry souls. There is many a starved sheep wandering about today who will deeply appreciate the ministrations of one of Christ’s shepherds.
C. H. SPURGEON: Remember the promises, let them come up before your mind—believe them, and go in the strength of them. “In due season we shall reap if we faint not,” Galatians 6:9; “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love,” Hebrews 6:10…But if you should not live to see it on earth, remember, you are only accountable for your labour—not for your success! Sow still, toil on! “Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days.” God will not allow His Word to be wasted—“it shall not return to Him void, but shall accomplish that which He pleases,” Isaiah 55:11.